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The Documentary cinema 1945-1965

Summary:

During the final years of the war Jan C. Bouman, Lou Lichtveld, Paul Schuitema and Eduard Verschueren were closely involved in plans for a radically different post-war practice for art and artists in the Netherlands. In the spring and summer of 1944 this quartet worked in secrecy on ­a report whose subject was 'stimulating, developing and organizing the Dutch film world' (Rapport inzake de stimuleering, ontwikkeling en ordening van het Filmwezen in Nederland) .

It comprised all the elements necessary to successfully initiate a tightly organized film output in the post-war Netherlands. One of the seminal requirements was that film be placed under the wing of the Ministry of Education, Arts and Sciences (Dutch initials OK&W) on a par with the other arts. After 'Dolle Dinsdag' - literally 'Mad Tuesday', 5 September 1944, when the Dutch population went berserk with excitement after the liberation of Brussels and Antwerp - the four secured themselves a position within the Binnenlandse Strijdkrachten, the newly combined 'army' of resistance groups, at the head of the National Film and Photo Reportage Service­.

Accredited war correspondents who like the Dutch cinematographer John Fernhout arrived with the Allied troops, shot footage on Dutch soil. So did the German-born film-maker Rudi Hornecker during the terrible Hunger Winter of 1944-45; his images, such as the ones of boys scraping the insides of the empty food bins, have become icons. After the liberation Bouman, Lichtveld, Schuitema and Verschueren set up a national co-operative for film production (Nederlandse Werkgemeenschap voor Filmproductie, or NWF), taking Multifilm, a small production company in Haarlem, as their home base. Only those film-makers with artistic aspirations and irreproachable (wartime) behaviour were invited to become members.
The government made known its intentions to take an active interest in the arts, film included. Most of the NWF's commissions came from the national Ministry of Reconstruction. Despite the necessary logistical problems - cars were almost impossible to come by and petrol was available by allocation only - the film-makers of the NWF soon managed to produce their first short films.

After some lobbying by the quartet, the Dutch Cinema Union (Nederlandse Bioscoopbond or NBB) made it mandatory for cinema owners to include a short Dutch film 12 times a year for a full week in their supporting programme. To this end the union's cultural advisory board drew up a list of 'recommended' and 'appropriate­' films. On 30 October 1945, once again at the instigation of the four, the Dutch Film Makers Guild (Beroepsvereniging van Nederlandse Cineasten) convened for the first time. Unlike other trade associations this one played no part in 'purging' the Dutch film world. The government assumed than anyone actively engaged in producing films during the German occupation could not help but get their hands dirty. In 1947 the NWF was closed down after having produced a total of 17 films.

Although the Dutch newsreel had thoroughly blotted its copybook during the occupation, after the liberation it rapidly evolved into a revered national institution showing in the vast majority of Dutch cinemas. Only three years after the liberation, in September 1948 on the occasion of Queen Wilhelmina's abdication in favour of her daughter Juliana, the work of the Polygoon-Profilti film company was eulogized as the embodiment of democratic ideas. The coronation was seized upon to introduce technological advances including the use of colour film stock and the preservation of old film.

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